ser·en·dip·i·ty  |  serənˈdipədē

  • “The action of making happy discoveries, by accidents and sagacity, of some thing not initially in quest of.”
  • “A very good coincidence, often leading to something really awesome.”
  • “The occurrence and development of events by chance in a happy or beneficial way.”
  • ” A fortunate accident.”

Synonyms: (happy) chance, (happy) accident, fluke;

A long time ago three young princes of Serendip decided to go forth into the world in search of glory and treasures to honor their father and gain his favor.

They decided to not travel as high born princes but like every man, so that no one would seek to curry favor with them or to give them any special privileges.

They found that by travelling in this manner they found much hardship and human suffering along the way.

But they also discovered, quite unexpectedly, great and wonderful good in the most unlikely of situations, places and people.

Upon their return home after a number of years of travelling, and telling their father and his court of all they saw and experienced, they decided to commemorate the experience of finding valuable and agreeable things not specifically sought by creating a word.

The word the three princes of Serendip created is a word called “serendipity.”

The Three Princes and The Merchant

One of the tales told by the three princes to their Father the King was about a Merchant they encountered.

The three princes had ridden for a number of days and they were attracted by the sound of wildly roaring water.

They decided that a river must be near by and went to look. They found the river with it’s wildly roaring waters, but beside the river bank was a man dressed in rich robes which proclaimed him to be a merchant.

But the merchant was crying and cursing the Gods.

The three princes asked him why did he cry and curse the Gods so.

“Catastrophe” He wailed loudly, cursing the evil that be felled him. “I have been cursed.”

“Tell us what has happened to you” the three princes asked “Perhaps we can help you.”

“No one can help me” moaned the merchant as he looked sadly at the river–“For there in the river, lies my fortune and future happiness. I, as you can see, I was a merchant. I have traveled through many kingdoms building great wealth and collecting the finest of treasures.”

I returned here to this river to build my palace on these banks, and to house my treasures and wealth.

Never in long memory has the river overrun it’s banks, but now it has–destroying my palace, stealing my treasures and most of my wealth.”

And the merchant continued to moan.

“But you have been given a great Blessing!!” cried the princes.

Confused and bewildered by what they said the merchant demanded to know why they said that.

“You have been Blessed. For if you seek the good in your misfortune you will find even greater fortune. We thank you for this lesson.” and with that remark the three princes rode off to leave the merchant to think upon their words.

A few years later when they were returning to their home kingdom they happen to ride back to the same river, and they remarked: wasn’t this the place where they had met the merchant?

At that moment a servant came running up to them and bid them to come to his master’s house to enjoy his master’s hospitality.

The princes followed the servant to a beautiful palace built high up on a cliff that over looked the river and were greeted at the door by the very merchant that they had met only a few years before.

The merchant greeted them with great joy and bid them to rest, refresh themselves and join him that evening for dinner, for he had much to tell them.

That evening after a splendid dinner the merchant told his tale to the Princes.

“After you left me, I pondered on what you said. And in doing that I watched the river that had taken so much from me. I realized that why I had built my first palace there was that as a young boy I had spent much time at the river, playing in it’s waters, whispering my secret dreams to it, I had loved the river and I felt it had loved me.

For I felt, as a boy, that it had even spoken to me. I as a man had forgotten how the river had spoken to me as a boy, but I remained quiet and began listening to it again with my heart.

After a while it seem to speak to me again saying ‘This is not the place, lift your eyes and you will see.’

I looked up and saw the cliff and realized that up there I would have an even more wonderful view of the river than just by it’s banks. I am blessed I thought and sent my servants up there to prepare the ground to build even a humble home with what wealth I had left.

But as my servants were preparing the ground they came across a great field of gems of great wealth. I am blessed I thought when they brought the news to me.

For with the wealth that the river guided me to I was able to build a magnificent palace.

I invited all that I knew from all the kingdoms that I travelled through, to partake of my hospitality. And those weary trailers that I did not know I bid them to rest and refresh themselves.

Everyone came and each brought me treasures to fill my many rooms, but the greatest of treasures is their company and friendship for that is more precious that all the wealth in the kingdoms.

I have been blessed beyond measure, for my youthful zest has been returned to me, and I have found that my family, my friends and my good health are my greatest of treasures for through my misfortune has flowed the greatest good, and I discovered my Greatest Blessings.”

Source: The Three Princes of Serendip is the English version of the story Peregrinaggio di tre giovani figliuoli del re di Serendippo published by Michele Tramezzino in Venice in 1557

Buy the book here (English Version): The three princes of Serendip

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